Authentic Happiness: Getting Clear About the Confusion
Since I began this site, I've encountered more methods for authentic happiness than you can shake a smiley at, and maybe the reason for that is that we are approaching authentic happiness from the wrong direction. It seems hidden and evasive, requiring some wooing to bring it to life, and perhaps a great deal of romancing to manitain it after that.
The approach of this site, which has hopefully been made apparent in digestible bits and pieces, is to convey the idea that authentic happiness isn't the result of a secret formula or properly executed technique which, while it appeals to the acquiring mind, actually serves to obscure the fact that happiness is already present in the absence of our need to find it. Hence, rather than doing something that has yet to be done, it becomes a matter of ceasing to do what has always been done, and therefore seems quite reasonable and beyond question.
The analogy I use is that of humans banging their heads against the wall unceasingly from very early childhood, and spending their lives seeking methods to relieve the pain while continuing the head banging. There are various 'medications', enjoyable distractions and pleasure producing activities that do in fact seem to help aleviate the pain, and such aleviation we refer to as happiness. However, since all of them are compensations or distractions of some sort, the relief only lasts as long as the activity continues, and as long as we find it sufficiently interesting and enjoyable. This has us endlessly seeking out new distractions and often complex formulas designed to keep us, and hopefully everybody else, smiling.
The reason being, of course, is that the head banging has not ceased throughout this authentic happiness seeking process. A while back I heard a spiritual teacher say, "Stop bothering yourself". I was struck with the simplicity of that phrase and in fact it hits the mark. Noticing the myriad ways in which we 'bother ourselves' can be extremely enlightening to the point where we may begin to wonder if not bothering ourselves may be more effective than bothering ourselves, and then looking for ways to feel good in spite of it.
If we observe closely, we can notice how often we create unnecessary drama with others, or how we seem to almost enjoy getting worked up while reading the morning newspaper or watching the evening news. We can notice how quickly we move from boredom to problem solving, having basically invented a problem to solve in order to relieve our boredom. Worry or anxiety often begins as an unsettled feeling about nothing in particular, at which point the mind will fill in the particulars and work itself into an imaginary frenzy about a problem that never existed until it was imagined.
Some 'bothers' are very fundamental to human existence and are rarely if ever approached directly, but rather converted into a more manageable story about what needs to change in our current situation to bring about authentic happiness. Examples of this are the ever present fear of death and the equally pervasive sense of lack, which will take the form of needing something in order to feel fulfilled, or finding something wrong with the way things are.
These fundamental fears arise from a confusion in our basic belief systems. We see ourselves as separate individuals born into this world alone, destined to die alone, and in between, to struggle against a natural order that often seems malevolent or at least disinterested in our personal welfare. The idea of separation brings a continual sense of lack and aloneness, and the natural world does not in fact recognize the actuality of that illusion. Separate existence also implies death and so we are pervaded by existential fear, not knowing what is next or if there even is a next.
All of these fears arise from misunderstandings that are not supported by our actual experience, but based on mere assumptions and conclusions that were passed along from previous generations as unquestioned fact. In essence, it's necessary to stop banging our heads against the wall, to stop bothering ourselves, and before we can do that we have to notice what's actually going on at all levels of our experience. Some of this bother is quite easy to notice, and some of it requires a deep insight into the nature of our existence. Philosophy, psychology, religion and spirituality have all been mostly unsuccessful attempts to do just that, but only because we don't take the questions seriously enough for them to yield serious answers.
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More Self Actualization articles:
Living Consciously 1
Living Consciously 2
When does Feeling Become Suffering?
Breaking Habits by Healing the Split Mind
Being Present: Our Tendency to Imagine Problems
Is Struggle the Effect or Cause of Suffering?
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